Bar­ri­ers to Broad­band Adop­tion in In­dia

As the tele­com in­dus­try in In­dia pre­pares for the next level of growth through new dig­i­tal ini­tia­tives, let us look at the chal­lenges that pre­vented the im­ple­men­ta­tion of an ef­fec­tive broad­band network in In­dia in the past

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Just months af­ter In­dia watched the grand un­veil­ing of the am­bi­tious Dig­i­tal In­dia and Smart Cities 100 ini­tia­tives, an in­dus­try re­port ranked Indian tele­com in­dus­try the worst in Asia Pa­cific in terms of broad­band speed. “Will high-speed broad­band re­main a myth in my life­time?” asks an av­er­age Indian who has been frus­trated with the 3G/4G ser­vices avail­able on his mo­bile network. If we com­pare the broad­band sub­scriber fig­ure be­tween In­dia and its peers, it be­comes clear that ru­ral broad­band will re­main a dream for In­dia at least for the next 5 years. With just 120.88 mil­lion sub­scribers, which in­clude wire­less and wire­line ser­vices, In­dia’s broad­band cus­tomer base com­prises just 26% of 3G and 4G sub­scriber base of China Mo­bile alone. As per ‘Mea­sur­ing the In­for­ma­tion So­ci­ety Re­port’ of 2015 pub­lished by ITU. In­dia is ranked 135 in both the ac­cess sub in­dex and use sub-in­dex, which are ba­si­cally mea­sures for Tele­com In­fra & pen­e­tra­tion in­di­ca­tors.

As the tele­com in­dus­try in In­dia pre­pares for the 54 www.dqin­dia.com next level of growth through new dig­i­tal ini­tia­tives, let us look at the chal­lenges that pre­vented the im­ple­men­ta­tion of an ef­fec­tive broad­band network in In­dia in the past.

Reg­u­la­tory hur­dles: Over the last decade since the ad­vent of broad­band, the reg­u­la­tory au­thor­ity in In­dia missed sev­eral op­por­tu­ni­ties to for­mu­late a proac­tive broad­band strat­egy that could help ad­dress the dig­i­tal di­vide and boost the coun­try’s eco­nomic growth. World Bank es­ti­mates that a 10% in­crease in broad­band pen­e­tra­tion ac­cel­er­ates eco­nomic growth by 1.38% in de­vel­op­ing coun­tries. Reg­u­la­tory hur­dles apart, Indian tele­com sec­tor was hard hit by the on­slaught of mul­ti­ple is­sues and pro­ce­dural de­lays typ­i­cally as­so­ci­ated with public of­fices. Tel­cos who got their fin­gers burnt in 2G taught the in­dus­try that in­vest­ment in In­dia’s tele­com sec­tor is a risky af­fair. Also, the re­ac­tionary poli­cies that im­me­di­ately fol­low such de­lays and im­ple­mented with­out hav­ing a fu­tur­is­tic out­look, make the sce­nario worse for the in­vestors. Strik­ing a bal­ance be­tween trans­par­ent mea­sures which pre­vent such malfea­sance and an eco­nom­i­cally vi­able model that fa­cil­i­tates a level-play­ing field for the par­tic­i­pants is in­te­gral for the health of the Indian econ­omy. A sin­gle reg­u­la­tory frame­work that fa­cil­i­tates swift de­ci­sion mak­ing and trans­parency among the stake­hold­ers could ad­dress the chal­lenges in rolling out a broad­band in­fra­struc­ture.

Lack of fi­bre in­fra­struc­ture: The poor qual­ity of ser­vice ( QoS) and call drop is­sues are pri­mar­ily at­trib­uted to the coun­try’s low in­vest­ment in fi­bre and back­haul in­fra­struc­ture. It is a well un­der­stood fact that fi­bre net­works are the most vi­able medium to de­liver in­creased data ca­pac­ity and im­prove the qual­ity of voice

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